The legend of the White Buffalo Calf Woman is ancient, arising about 2000 years ago, and is central to the spiritual practices of numerous Native American nations. Various but similar versions of the legend of the goddess are told to this day.
The brief story presented here is based primarily on the story of the the goddess at various websites as told by Joseph Chasing Horse, Traditional Leader of the Lakota Nation.
”It was told that next time there is
chaos and disparity,
she would return again.She said she would return as
a White Buffalo Calf.
Some believe she already has.”
Words of Chief Arvol Looking Horse,
19th Generation Keeper of the
Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe
of the Lakota Nation
Warriors Meet The White Buffalo Calf Woman
While two warriors were out hunting buffalo, a white buffalo calf suddenly appeared. As she approached them, she changed into a beautiful young woman. This is how she came to be called the White Buffalo Calf Woman.
One of the young warriors offended her with his lustful thoughts, and the goddess asked him to approach. As he stepped forward, a black cloud descended over him, and when it dissipated, all that was left of him were his bones.
The other warrior fell to his knees and began to pray. The White Buffalo Calf Woman told him to return to his people. Telling them she would appear to them in four days, bringing with her a sacred bundle.
White Buffalo Calf Woman Shares Her Wisdom
And this she did, appearing to them as a white buffalo calf descending on a cloud. Stepping down, she rolled over on the ground, changing from white to black, then yellow, then red.
When the goddess arose, she was once again the beautiful woman, cradling the sacred bundle in her arms.
Spending four days with the people, White Buffalo Calf Woman taught them sacred songs, dances, and ceremonies as well as the traditional ways. The goddess instructed them to be responsible caretakers of the land and to be always mindful that the children are the future of the people.
On the fourth day, she left, in the same manner, she had arrived. Telling the people she was leaving the sacred bundle, the White Buffalo Calf Woman pipe, in their care. She promised to one day return for it and to bring harmony and spiritual balance to the world.
The goddess prophesied that the birth of a white buffalo calf would be a sign that it was near the time of her return.
Another Version of The Legend
A beautiful and different telling of the story of the White Buffalo Calf Woman is provided by Matthew Richter. Found in American Comments, a web magazine fighting racial hatred and discrimination. This version tells the story of how a woman called the Mother of Life came to become the White Buffalo Calf Woman and discusses the meaning of the pipe and the prophecy.
Mother of Life
According to this legend, a young woman, during an enemy raid on her village, saw a toddler injured and ran to cradle him in her arms and comfort him as death approached. Soon she too was mortally wounded and her young body crumpled with the young child still cradled in her arms.
Her spirit hurried to catch up with the child’s so that she would be there to care for them when they crossed over. To honor her noble act, the Sioux gave her the name Mother of Life.
Later she appeared to a young warrior whose troubled heart yearned for a good future for the children. A future without the prospect of continual war and divisiveness, a future of peace. The goddess advised him “to seek the vision of a mother’s heart for the love of her children.”
White Buffalo Calf Woman gave the pipe into his care. Detailing the ways in which the people could learn to grow into responsible keepers of the pipe, cultivating peace and understanding.
One of her gifts was the suggestion that all children be taught to hold baby animals with love and care. This was so that as they grow, they will learn to love all the other babies of the world.
As she gave her instructions, the white buffalo calf that accompanied the woman rolled over four times. Each time changing colors, once for each race, first white, then yellow, then red, then black. Signifying that we were all members of the same family.
In her delightful book, A Goddess Is A Girl’s Best Friend, Laurie Sue Brockway highlights the importance of the White Buffalo Calf Woman:
“Now, more than any time in history, we need the sacred feminine to balance our lives and to balance our world. We must be spiritual warriors… culling the profound and important aspects of the power of feminine wisdom and directing them toward peace within, as without, and utilizing the energies of the goddess and all mythical women and spiritual heroines to help direct the course of history.”
In 1994, a white buffalo calf was born on a farm in Wisconsin. The first white buffalo born in decades. Some believe she was the fulfillment of the prophecy that the return of the White Buffalo Calf Woman will herald the advent of an age of peace and harmony.
White Buffalo Calf Woman Symbols
White Buffalo Calf Woman is often represented by symbols associated with her personality traits and her contribution to her people. It is not surprising that many of our ikons representing Native American civilization and spirituality are derived from the ancient goddess symbols of the goddess White Buffalo Calf Woman.
White Buffalo Calf Woman left a sacred bundle to the Lakota people, and in that bundle, there was a pipe. That’s why a peace pipe became a symbol of this goddess.
Her other symbols are a circle (hoop), red clay, and the numbers 4 and 7.
Since she appeared in the form of the white buffalo, White Buffalo Calf Woman is often associated with buffalos and bison. Other animals that symbolize this goddess are the eagle and hawk.
Buttercup is a wildflower that symbolizes happiness, joy, purity, youth, and friendship. As such, it is often associated with White Buffalo Calf Woman. Other plants and flowers that can symbolize this goddess are pulsatilla (Pasque flower) and spruce.
For Native Americans, burning sage was an important ritual of purification before the important festivities and other events. This plant symbolizes protection and healing, and as such, its scent symbolizes our goddess.
Other perfumes and scents that are associated with White Buffalo Calf Woman are wisteria, tangerine, and rose geranium.
Gems and Metals
Agate is a gemstone often associated with healing and refreshing the body. Apart from its healing properties, agate protects children and can be used in the purification rituals. As such, agate is a good choice to symbolize White Buffalo Calf Woman.
Other gemstones and precious metals that symbolize White Buffalo Calf Woman are rose quartz, gold, and silver.
When she first appeared to them, White Buffalo Calf Woman promised the Lakota Warriors that they would see her again in four days. She kept her promise, and this time she appeared as a buffalo calf that changed her colors from white to yellow, red, and black.
After these transformations, she finally returned to her human form, but these four colors became her symbols.
If you enjoyed this post we are sure you will enjoy getting to know some of the other goddesses we also write about. You can find the complete list of goddesses sorted across regions and religions here.